Open House Tips for First-Time Buyers

Everything You Need To Know

Most people love an open house. But for serious first-time buyers, the process can be intimidating. Knowing what to do, and what to look for, can help you feel comfortable and make smart decisions.

What To Do At An Open House

Arrive at the open house early, if possible, to allow yourself lots of time to look around and ask questions. Feel free to bring a measuring tape and paint chips, if you like. You may also want to have your phone or a notepad ready to jot down ideas and questions as you go along.

Remember to give other visitors space to explore the house. If others are already looking at a particular room, go elsewhere until they have left.

If you’re working with a realtor, it’s always a good idea to bring him or her along with you. Your realtor can point out things you might miss.

In Canada, it’s also standard practice to remove your shoes before entering, if people are still living in the home.

What Not To Do At An Open House

This may go without saying, but don’t bring your pets. If you have children, it’s also best to leave them at home with a babysitter, if you can. This will free you up to focus on important details and ask questions.

Don’t open closets and drawers. This is considered a bad form if people are still living in the home. This is acceptable if the house is empty.

Don’t be swayed by either good or bad interior design. Try to look past the surface, examining the layout and condition of the house instead.

How To Make A Good Impression?

Of course, you will want to be perceived as a good prospective buyer, should you decide to put in an offer.

Dress nicely in clean clothes. A casual dress is fine, but avoid sportswear or anything you would wear to the beach.

Remember to sign the guest book and greet the listing agent politely.

What Do I Need To Check?

Remember, this is the only time you will see the house before putting in an offer, so it’s best to make sure you’ve looked it over thoroughly.

  • Consider the layout of the house. Will it work for you and your family?
  • Can you see any damage? Check floors, walls and ceilings for stains or other wear and tear.
  • Does the house have adequate closet space? Many older houses don’t.
  • Do the rooms have enough electrical outlets for your purposes?
  • Look at the windows. Do the frames look well-insulated? Do they open and close easily?
  • Does the yard, balcony or patio space suit you?
  • What direction are the rooms facing? Will they be hot in the summer or cold in the winter?
  • Do the rooms get enough light?
  • Will the air flow well through the house with open windows?
  • Overall, does the house seem well-maintained, or do you get the impression it has been neglected?
  • Take a look at the neighbours. Can you see yourself living next to them?

What Questions Should I Ask?

Knowing what to ask can make a huge difference when choosing a home. Here are some good open-house questions.

  • Check to see if the person greeting you is the listing agent. Some agents work on teams, and it’s always nice to know who you’re dealing with.
  • Find out how long the home has been on the market. Get information on the neighbourhood.
  • Are there grocery stores, schools or other amenities within walking distance?
  • Is the area considered safe? Find out why the owners are selling.
  • Ask how old the house is, and if there have been any recent upgrades.
  • If you need to move within a certain time frame, you can ask the listing agent how quickly the owners would like to close the purchase. You may not get a firm answer, but you may get a general idea of their preferred timing.
  • Ask if there are any offers on the house. If the house is older, find out when the roof was last replaced.

Red Flags!

No home is perfect, and small repairs are expected. But some problems can lead to big headaches. Here’s what to watch out for.

  • Water stains on the ceiling or walls can indicate plumbing or roof trouble.
  • A musty smell may indicate mold.
  • Too many air fresheners can mean issues are being covered up.
  • Problems with the roof or missing shingles may be very costly to repair.
  • Cracks in the foundation are very difficult to fix.
  • Very uneven floors can also indicate foundation problems.
  • If many houses in the neighborhood are also on the market, it could point to issues in the area.
  • Unfinished construction could leave you with a large bill.

What Is The Final Walkthrough?

Luckily, there are some processes in place that help protect buyers before sealing the deal in a home sale. One, of course, is the inspection, which most people already know about.

Another less well-known procedure is the final walkthrough. This usually takes place after the initial deposit has been made, right before the deal is scheduled to close and the final payment transferred.

The purpose of the final walkthrough is to make sure everything in the home sale contract is still in the same shape as when you first viewed the home. Since typical closing times can take anywhere from 1-3 months, it’s good to ensure there has been no new damage to the home.

If the owners have recently moved out, for example, there may be new dents in the walls or scratches on the floors.

If you notice new problems, it is possible to have the costs deducted from the final closing price. Once the sale is closed, however, you will bear the costs of repairs.

Can A Buyer Ask For A Final Walkthrough?

Yes! As the buyer, this is your prerogative. You can also put this in your sales agreement.

If you didn’t include a final walkthrough in your agreement, you can, and should, still ask for one. It’s very common, and a good agent will encourage you to do this.

How Long Does It Take?

The final walkthrough is typically 30 minutes to 1 hour, although if you think you will need more time, you may be able to negotiate this with the seller.

Schedule enough time to check the house over well, with extra time for measurements, if necessary.


If you know what you’re doing, open houses can not only be a lot of fun, but they can provide invaluable information.

Looking for more home-buying tips? Check out our blog! Or if you’d like a knowledgeable realtor to help you find new listings, and advise you during your next open house, get in touch with us today!